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Minorities of Armenia - A Sociocultural and Sociolinguistic Survey (2012-2015)

armminThe project 'Minorities of Armenia - a Sociocultural and Sociolinguistic Survey' is a three-years projects (2012-2015) fully funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. Project director is Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze. For two years (2012-2014), Jasmine Dun-Tragut functioned as a principle investigator. Cooperation partners in Armenien are (among others) Prof. Dr. Pavel Avetisyan, Institute for Archeology and Ethnography (National Akademy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia) and Prof. Dr. Garnik Asatrian, Department of Iranian Studies (State University Yerevan). The team is complemented with four research/PhD stipendiaries (three from Armenia, a research stipendiary from Germany) and several scientific consultants (Armenia, France, Germany etc.).

The project aims at a comprehensive sociocultural and sociolinguistic survey of minorities in the Republic of Armenia. Even though Armenia is generally considered to be marked for a rather homogenous ethnic composition, ethnic minorities are nevertheless a relevant expression of cultural and linguistic diversity in Armenia, whereby the Armenian traditions function as a canopy for most of the members of these minorities. Due to their seemingly marginal role, minorities in Armenia have found little attention in the description of ethnic patterns present in this country. The current project aims at filling this gap by introducing a pronounced interdisciplinary perspective that relates cultural studies to sociology and linguistics. The study concentrates on the eleven officially recognized minorities (Assyrians, Belorussian, Georgians, Germans, Greeks, Jews, Kurds, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Yezidis). However, it also includes research on the two 'new minorities' resulting from the refugee movements in the years 1989-90 (Tats and Udis). If technically possible, the Boša 'hidden' minority (Armenian Gypsies) will be considered in the context of these 'unofficial' minorities, too.

    The focus of the project lies on the documentation of ethnic patterns as revealed by features such as ethnic (self-)perception, ethnic 'self-modeling', cultural and linguistic practices, and socio-economic peculiarities. The corresponding survey program will be organized in terms of both qualitative and quantitative research methods concentrating on qualitative patterns, again strongly related to ethnomethodology. The qualitative analysis starts from interviews and group discussions, participant observation and reflection field notes. Additional documentary features are diaries, texts and visual recordings (pictures, films) especially of those features that are considered as 'social, cultural, or linguistic 'shibboleths' by either the given minority, by its 'neighborhood', or in the perspective of the Armenian majority. With monolingual (non-Armenian) speakers or in case a non-Armenian communicative setting seems preferable, the interviews will be carried out with the help of native mediators and interpreters. For Assyrian and the Iranian minorities, native stipendiaries (from Armenia) will assume this role. Data will be collected as follows: (a) during three field work campaigns (two months each); (b) during shorter individual field work sessions conducted by the Armenian stipendiaries. These sessions will take place continuously within the timespan of the project; (c) by collecting and analyzing data stemming from archived and secondary sources.   

    The project integrates quantitative aspects in terms of a mixed-methods approach. Hence, the quantitative analysis serves as a global frame directing some key issues of the qualitative program, such as demographic, general sociological, socioeconomic, linguistic, and religious values. Only in the case of minorities with a very low number of members, the project aims at a fuller coverage of qualitative data. Nevertheless, the basic quantitative data available from statistic sources (of different times) will essentially contribute to the formulation of generalizations concerning the validity of raw data. The project will also try to unearth other types of statistics that do not show up in standard demographic monitoring (such as schooling, family size etc.). These data will be supplemented by estimations stemming from key informants (concerning different domains) thus adding the feature of 'local experience' to the quantitative set of data. The qualitative data that are collected and validated during the field work sessions are based on analytic and interpretative categories, values, and codes that are derived (among others) from Interpretative Anthropology, Analytic Anthropology, and Sociocultural Linguistics. These categories/values/codes serve to formulate preliminary interview and (open format) questionnaire strategies that will be constantly validated during the individual field work sessions. The data recorded during these sessions will be translated into English (and if - stemming from non-Armenian speakers - into Armenian) and processed with the help of corresponding data base systems and computer assisted qualitative data analysis software. The resulting data pool will be managed according to a fine-grained taxonomy that is derived from the above-mentioned set of categories/values/codes. This taxonomy serves as a grid used to describe the findings for the individual minorities in a unified way. The project will document the results of the survey both on the Internet and in terms of a larger publication (two volumes, working title "A Handbook of the Minorities of Armenia").

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